Last year when ScottGu moved over to the Azure group and brought the ASP.NET and IIS teams with him, I'll be frank, I wasn't a fan. I didn't really appreciate Azure or its first iteration. The management portal was obtuse and confusing to use, the service was primarily a PAAS (Platform as a Service) offering and focused on (I thought) confusing terms like Cloud Services and slow deployments. The underlying infrastructure was strong but the developer experience didn't feel "right" to me. I really wasn't feeling it.
So I continued to work on ASP.NET and Visual Studio 2012 and the things that were interesting to me. Then, some months ago Scott and some folks showed us the concepts for the new experience and the new management stuff. It clicked. I saw that Scott and his team "gets" it. I started working with it, giving feedback and filing bugs. We had weekly full-day long team app-building sessions. One particular day I sent 52 different pieces of feedback to the Portal team.
I've talked before about how sometimes development on a platform can be "death by a thousand tiny cuts." It doesn't hurt in general but the little things poke at you. That's not the case with Windows Azure and this release. I'm not embarrassed to say I work for the Azure Team now, as it is pretty darned sweet.
Check out Scott's post but I'll mention a few things that are new just to make the point for you that Azure is something you'll want to check out now.
New Administration Portal and Tools
The management portal has been completely redone with a focus on usability and speed. It works on all browsers but the best part is that it's actually using a REST-based management API so anything you can do on the portal you can do from the API.
There are command line tools to talk to the REST API so you can automate anything you like from both PowerShell on Windows or Bash on Mac and Linux. If you go to the Downloads page on the Azure site you can get .NET, node.js, PHP, Java or Python tools for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Just to make the point, I'll use my Mac and download the Mac SDK on a fresh system. You can do anything from the command line be it in PowerShell or Bash. If I'm on Linux and I have npm, I can just
sudo npm install azure -g
And there's lots of stuff to explore.
Freaked out yet? You should be. ;) The Azure SDK is also open source under Apache 2 and available on GitHub.
After the install is done I'm sent to a "what's next" page that shows me how to get node, PHP or Python running (Given that I'm on a Mac). I'll install node.js and git, then I'll make a node.js application on Azure on my Mac.
Now, my point isn't about node nor is it about Macs. It's about choice and it's about the ability to build what you want the way you want it with the tools that make you happy.
I'll make a Web Site...
Then I'll setup a git repository along with a name and password for deployment.
I'll make a folder, put an app.js in there, initialize the git repo, add "Azure" as a remote repo, and then push. The Azure management site actually notices the push and automatically refreshes without me having to do anything.
Boom, website in the cloud, easy as it should be.
Check out the YouTube video I did (embedded above also) on how to do the same thing with .NET and Visual Studio. You can use Web Deploy as I do in the video, Git, TFS or FTP. For example, I can use TFS and do Continuous Deployment if I like.
Azure has durable Virtual Machines (VMs) in the cloud now as well. You can make your own image and upload it or you can use a gallery of images that includes not only Windows but also Ubuntu, CentOS and SUSE images.
You can make a web site in Azure yourself in a minute. You can make up to 10 small websites for free to play and experiment and then later reserve instances and scale up.
NOTE: To start using Preview Features like Virtual Network and Web Sites, request access on the 'Preview Features' page under the 'account' tab, after you log into your Windows Azure account. Don't have an account? Sign-up for a free trial here.
Maybe go try one out and create a new Web Site from the Gallery:
Feel free to publish in a number of ways as I mentioned, using Web Deploy, TFS, Git or FTP. You can manage everything in the portal or you can automate stuff from the command line.
I like that I have real choice. Use whatever tools I like, whatever OS I like to publish whatever apps I like talking to the backend that I like. I'm personally really happy with the way things are going and I'm looking forward to building all sorts of things with all sorts of tools on Azure.